Prayer: The Father and Son Chat

Today I was listening to a Mormon Messages soundbite on preparing ourselves spiritually each day and the main focus moved onto prayer.

I am pretty diligent in my scripture study, even if it’s only a few verses a day, I attend my regular Church meetings and renew my covenants and I try to fulfill my callings to the best of my ability whilst balancing family life. However, the one practice that I never seem to get right or do consistently is my personal prayers. We say family prayers everyday and you would think as a return missionary I would be better at this. I have seen miracles, felt clear promptings as a direct result and witnessed changes in my own nature as a result of heartfelt prayer. So why do I struggle with it on a regular basis. I seem to leave Church each Sunday with the commitment to improve my personal prayers and then fall short! Why do I not call on my Heavenly Father? 

All these thoughts began to buzz around my mind as I listened closely to the audio clip. Later, they shared a passage of scripture from the Bible Dictionary. Some of it I remembered and have used in my own opportunities to teach such as a talk, or when I have ministered. However, there was a section they read which I was sure was from some other source and I even rewound the recording to listen to where they found it again, but it was indeed from the very same place: the Bible Dictionary. It says this:

“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship.”

For some reason, despite knowing that God is my Heavenly Father, this struck a chord in me. I love speaking to my Dad – I know that he loves me and is pleased to see me when we meet. How much more then is my Heavenly Father eager to see me when I ‘meet’ Him in prayer. No disrespect to my earthly father, but my Heavenly Father is so much more able, willing to love and has given me more guidance and help in my life than my earthly father (although, I owe my life to him also). So why shouldn’t I be anxious to get on my knees and communicate with Him!? 

The answer is right there at the end of the Bible Dictionary passage – we forget about how intimate the relationship with our Heavenly Father is. In fact, the unfortunate paradox is that we probably understand this intimate relationship the best when we are already praying fervently and often…not before we begin the process. So how can we always remember this relationship with Heavenly Father so we are consistent in our prayers?

There will be many answers, each more useful or unique to different people. However, I think the main answer is one which relates to the wonderful teaching by Alma in Alma 32:28 where he says:

“Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.”

In other words, we just need to cast aside our apathy, our easiness to drift into relative contentment, and just get on our knees and do it! Then the next day, have some reminder ready and do it again! Try the word and see what happens. Only then can our hearts truly BEGIN to change. The word BEGIN is important there. It is a lifelong process which is why we are taught so often the basics – because we aren’t getting them all right yet.

Tonight – I will just do it!

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Lehi’s Dream – Love of God

Lehi’s Dream – the vision of the tree of life – has many marvelous meanings and analogies behind it. It is one of the first main gospel ‘teachings’ in the Book of Mormon and highlights really just what the Book of Mormon is for – to bring others to the knowledge of Christ and, eventually, the true love of God. We see this in the vision described by Lehi in 1 Nephi 8 and explained later to Nephi in 1 Nephi 11.

If we look at the vision in terms of missionary work – we see a good description of the emotions and efforts of the work placed before us.

At the beginning, Lehi finds himself at this tree of life. He tastes the fruit and says “I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted…And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy…” (1 Nephi 8:11-12). Thus we see that this fruit was very delicious to the taste and it made Lehi feel great. This fruit can be related to as the love of God – the abundant blessings that we receive from our loving Father’s hand – in particular eternal life, living in the presence of Him and our families together forever.

As such, if we want to dwell with our families forever, they need to qualify as well. So Lehi continues “I cast my eyes round about, that perhaps I might discover my family also…” (1 Nephi 8:13) – he immediately looked for his family to taste of what he just had. He wanted to share it with them so that they could have the joy that he had – just as we should be with the Gospel in our lives.

What is also interesting is the way that people would make it to the tree/eternal life. In order to reach the tree, people had to “press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” (1 Nephi 18:30). This links into what we need to do to receive all the blessings of the Atonement. Grasping to the rod could represent holding to the gospel covenants. As such, commitments and covenants help us move closer and closer to the eventual goal of celestial glory. An interesting point is that the people had to hold to the rod right until they reached the tree – and hold on tight. Due to the mists of darkness (temptations of Satan), if they didn’t hold fast they would be lost – if they didn’t endure to the end then they wouldn’t reach he blessing of eternal life.

Sacrament – “This Do in Remembrance of Me”

The sacrament is a most special ordinance in the fact that it allows the opportunity to remember Christ and renew our covenants made at baptism. Concerning the sacrament – Christ himself said “This do in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:18). When we come to the sacrament meeting, we should be ready to ponder over our worthiness and be prepared for a spiritual experience. In 1 Corinthians 11:28 it says “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of that cup.” I have personally found that when one comes to take the sacrament, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and focus on what is taking place before them and the importance of that ordinance – it can be one of the most profound spiritual experiences in your life. You can feel the Spirit working within you.

The sacrament itself was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper – to usher in the new covenant. Now, instead of sacrificing a lamb to cleanse our sins, the atoning blood of the Lamb of God does that and we show our acceptance of that through the ordinance of the sacrament. Christ declared “Think not that that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am come not to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17). The doing away of sacrificing animals was not a sign of leaving God’s law – rather it is the shifting to a higher law, from which higher blessings and spirituality can be achieved.

Elder L Tom Perry said “Before the world was organised, God laid out a plan whereby He would offer blessings to His children based on their obedience to His commandments. He understood, however, that we would be distracted at times by the things of the world and would need to be reminded regularly of our covenants and His promises. The purpose of partaking of the sacrament is, of course, to renew the covenants we have made with the Lord…” – not only does this ordinance serve as an actual renewing of our covenants but also as a reminder of the covenants themselves, hence the particular wording of the prayer offered over the sacrament.

“Behold, I am the Alpha and Omega, even Jesus Christ. Wherefore let all men beware how they take my name in their lips,” (D&C 63:60-61) – a stark warning to take the name of the Lord not in vain. We are taking upon ourselves the name of Christ in being baptised and renewing those covenants weekly through the sacrament. If we do this lightly, we are breaking one of the Ten Commandments – “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain…” (Exodus 20:7). We need to be reverent and ponder over the promises we are making and renewing.

On my mission I had a moving experience whilst teaching a Family Home Evening to a member family. We showed ‘To This End Was I Born’ – a deep film of the Saviour and His Atonement. A very solemn spirit came over the lesson – somehow the sacrament was discussed and every single person in the room committed to take the sacrament more worthily, remembering that “there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” (Mosiah 3:17). It is easy to often let our minds drift during the sacrament or be preoccupied – but as we all determine to focus on why we are taking this bread and water – what it can mean for us when we take it in the right spirit – then we will receive the profound, spiritual experiences during this sacred ordinance and then all be ‘filled’.

Worshipping around the Temple

Drawing Closer to the Lord

This is a wonderful time of year where we can reflect on how close we are to the Saviour. Life-changing decisions will be made every day of our lives. It is ever more vital that these decisions are made with the Lord in mind. In an address given by Elder Neil L Andersen, he stated:

“How we live our lives increases or diminishes our faith. Prayer, obedience, honesty, purity of thought and deed, and unselfishness increase faith. Without these, faith diminishes. Why did the Savior say to Peter, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not”? Because there is an adversary who delights in destroying our faith! Be relentless in protecting your faith.”

The decisions you make with your lives each and every day will have an impact on the strength on your faith and the power of the hand of the Lord in your lives. What do you plan to do after Church on a Sunday? When and how often are you planning to study in the scriptures this week? The answer to these questions will have an impact on the person you find you are next week when you go to worship at the sacrament table again next week to reflect upon your covenants.

A Renewed Focus

As we enter the year of 2018, a great focus to have would be to gather in and around the Temple more regularly.

Do we recognise how blessed we are to have Temples on the Earth today? In D&C 109:13 we read:

“And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power, and feel constrained to acknowledge that thou hast sanctified it, and that it is thy house, a place of thy holiness.”

We are taught in the scriptures that the influence of House of the Lord is so powerful that even being there at the doorway will constrain us to acknowledge that it is his House. On my mission we knocked on the door of a lady who invited us in straight away. With surprise and a spring in our step we entered. She went on to say she had been taught by missionaries almost 10 years ago and at the time, the Preston Temple had its Open House. She went to that sacred building and as soon as she entered the doorway, she said she knew it was a holy place, the House of the Lord and she could not deny it. Time and various barriers meant that she stopped receiving lessons and attending Church. However, almost ten years later it was clear that she had been constrained to acknowledge that the Preston Temple was sanctified, a holy place. She began attending Church again and receiving the lessons. The Temple’s influence and power had changed her heart.

Temple Recommend Holders

So, what does this mean for us? How can we ensure we make the most of the opportunity provided by the Temple? Quite simply – go!

For those of who hold a full temple recommend, never let it expire. President Howard W Hunter, the 14th President of this Church, was only sustained and called as the Prophet 9 months before his death in 1995. However, one strong, clear message that resonates from his ministry is the need for all members to hold a temple recommend. He stated:

“It is the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church worthy to enter the temple. It would please the Lord if every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend. The things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families.”

At that time when President Hunter made this statement, there was around 47 temples in operation – that means since 1830-1995 (about 165 years) there had been 47 temples built. In the past 21 years till now, another 103 have been dedicated. Why would it please the Lord that every member of the Church is able to enter the Temple? Why has there been such a dramatic focus towards the Temple? If we continually live our lives in such a way that we can hold that recommend and regularly go then we will be living in such a way that the Lord can help us (can help you) guide important decisions in our lives. And in a world which, unfortunately, is becoming more and more unsettling to live in, it is even more vital we have power from on high to support us.

Once received and up to date, those of us who have already entered the Holy House of the Lord and have received our endowments have a lot of things we can do – yet we probably hold the most responsibility. In fact, we do! In D&C 82:3 we read some strong warnings:

“For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.”

This verse is not meant to sound harsh, but if we have entered those holy doors and we do not take the time to plan our regular visits to that sacred building, we must change. There are individuals in this Church struggling with afflictions and problems which mean they cannot enter right now, who would love to enter that Holy House to feel of the Spirit there. I have fallen victim occasionally to not going to the Temple as often as I should, just as we all sometimes don’t do things as often as we should. However, worshipping at the Temple stands out from everything else – if we spend the time to go to the Temple we will feel empowered and strengthened in all we do.

We often fall into the trap of planning Temple visits when we are reminded, or planning them simply when we remember. Can we be a little more proactive? I suggest 2 options:

  1. Plan dates for the whole year TODAY – decide that every third Tuesday (?) that you will do something dedicated to the Temple (notice I did not say necessarily go to the Temple but that would be ideal). If you need to shift a date, then shift it – don’t just cross it off.
  2. Decide as you leave the Temple when you will return. Too often we go to the Temple, feel a marvellous Spirit there, then we leave the Temple, go to McDonald’s, get home and most of that is forgotten – until we eventually remember that we need to go again a few weeks later.

Either of these options will help you get there more often.

Limited-Use Recommend or Non-Recommend Holders

Obviously there will be a large number who will not hold a temple recommend or hold a limited-use recommend to do baptisms and confirmations. Remember the words of President Hunter:

“It is the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church worthy to enter the temple”

Notice that initially he doesn’t say his desire is for all members to hold a recommend – his desire is every member to be worthy of holding a recommend. There will be a variety of reasons why some do not hold a temple recommend: some are awaiting missions, some are awaiting marriage, some do need to make some changes in their lives – whatever the reason, our first priority is to ensure we live worthy – do whatever it takes. No change required is too small or large that isn’t vital. President Gordon B Hinckley once told of an experience he has:

“I recall a bishop’s telling me of a woman who came to get a [temple] recommend. When asked if she observed the Word of Wisdom, she said that she occasionally drank a cup of coffee. She said, “Now, bishop, you’re not going to let that keep me from going to the temple, are you?” To which he replied, “Sister, surely you will not let a cup of coffee stand between you and the house of the Lord””

The Lord’s standard is high, it may be a challenge to many. However, the eternal blessings are too important to miss out on! To all those who do not hold a recommend, live your life so that you may be able to receive one when the time comes.

Of course, that time may a little while off and so the question is, or should be, what can I do now though? How can 2018 be focused on the Temple for me? There are a number of things we can do (and actually, if all temple recommend holders do these things it will enhance our experiences even more!):

  • Family History Work

 

Family History work and taking those names to the temple has increased dramatically across the Church in recent years and this is not going away. Why? Because this is something that all can do and it will make the experience of going to the Temple even more personal.

One line in True to the Faith (pg 63) really stands out, saying 

“Your effort approaches the spirit of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice – you perform a saving work for others that they cannot do for themselves.” 

Notice it does not say our work is equal to the Saviour’s, in fact it explicitly says our efforts ‘approach’ the Saviour’s – He makes everything possible through His Atonement. However, we can receive great blessings from being a part. In fact the Prophet Joseph Smith stated in D&C 128:15 

“…For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as…they without us cannot be made perfect – neither can we without our dead be made perfect.”

Obviously our efforts help to bless our ancestors and help them progress. And before we say that your Uncle Fred is doing your family history and doesn’t let anyone else near it – please think about this, does Uncle Fred go to Church for you too? Doing our Family History is something that the prophets and apostles have challenged us all to do. And do not worry there will be something to do. Think about it. We each have four grandparents and that doubles each generation. In 10 generations we have 512 “grandparents”—not counting the thousands of other family members they bore. In 16 generations, we have nearly 33,000 direct ancestors. That doesn’t even include siblings, cousins and so on…Our family history hasn’t all been done—I guarantee it.

  • Visit the Temple

 

Again, this is something all can do! My family and I have made the decision from the last Stake Conference to go to the Temple once a month as a family. Our 5 and 3 year old cannot enter, but we make it a special visit. We go to McDonalds on the way (by the way, not every Temple visit requires a McDonalds…but it is recommended!), we talk about why we’re going and what do we find special about the Temple, and then we walk around the grounds reverently and point out features. Nothing is more amazing than seeing your 3 year old point out the angel Moroni and start speaking in their usual garbled language, or hearing your 5 year old asking when can we go to the Temple again. This may seem like a simple, trivial thing to do, but it has brought our little family closer to the Temple.

The priority of the Temple is to bring us to Christ and also our families. It can do that here in mortality and for the eternities. Commit to focus more on the Temple in 2018.

That I Might Draw All Men Unto Me

 

Don’t we deserve it?

I want to share two examples – one from the scriptures and one from my personal life – where we find an attitude that, if we are not careful, we can find ourselves in which will limit our potential, spiritual growth.

Several months ago I began a renewed study into the Book of Mormon and I have made slow but steady progress. It is slow because I have wanted to look more closely at the messages contained in the verses for experiences I can learn from. In 1 Nephi we see a constant struggle from Nephi and Lehi to teach and touch the hearts of their brethren or sons, Laman and Lemuel. At times, we in the Church depict Laman and Lemuel and wicked, slothful individuals who were so stubborn that even though they had many experiences that we would be changed by, they never seemed to change.

Whilst this may in part be true, we have to be cautious. There are, at times, moments in 1 Nephi where I think my personal reactions (and maybe some of your own) would be closer in nature to Laman and Lenuel’s than Nephi’s.

Shortly after Lehi’s Vision, and after Nephi’s own vision interpreting and unveiling many things, we find Nephi returning to the tent of his father. He finds them discussing here the things that Lehi has just taught. Pause to consider this – Laman and Lemuel, the brethren who were so reluctant to follow their father’s guidance from the Lord to leave Jerusalem, to retrieve the brass plates and other things, are seen here discussing the word of the Lord from Lehi and trying to understand the meaning of these words! Surely this is a massive step forward. But then we learn why they are discussing…we read in 1 Nephi 15:2-3:

And it came to pass that I beheld my brethren, and they were disputing one with another concerning the things which my father had spoken unto them. For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought.”

Nephi then quizzes his brothers further as to why they haven’t received this guidance. Let’s remember here: Laman and Lemuel are actually seeming to want to learn. However, it seems that they haven’t even thought to ask the Lord for its meaning. In fact, in verses 8-9 we read:

“And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?
 And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.”

Laman and Lemuel were expecting an answer, despite not being close enough to the Lord to feel able to ask Him their questions. They wanted an answer, but they did not take the time to build a relationship with their Saviour to then be close enough to sense revelation when they sought it.

The experience from my personal life is from my mission and, actually, it is not one specific experience but something which happened often. I served my mission in the England Leeds Mission and (whilst I didn’t keep count of this) I think, out of all the questions I was ever asked, there was one that came up the most in our discussions. It was not “How many wives do you have?”, it was not “Are you really Christian?” and it was not “Where in Utah are you from?” – although I loved it when I was asked that one and then seeing the look at utter confusion when I told them I was from Manchester – I was a very popular companion to have for that reason. The most often question asked was not even “Do you not think that the purpose of our lives is the procurement and consumption of bacon?” (yes, that was a real and honest question I once had on a doorstep in York…). The question was “If God really existed, why he has let all these bad things happen to such and such who is one of the best people I know?”

In both these experiences, the asker is expecting an answer without being willing to grow closer to the Lord spiritually, in order to receive an answer.

In the talk I have been invited to base my remarks from by Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve, he made this statement:

“Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are the ultimate Givers. The more we distance ourselves from Them, the more entitled we feel. We begin to think that we deserve grace and are owed blessings. We are more prone to look around, identify inequities, and feel aggrieved—even offended—by the unfairness we perceive.”

 Is Life Fair?

This brings us to a question which even many of us in the Church have struggles over, even if we have an inordinate amount of faith in the Saviour. “Is Life Fair?”

Can we really say that life is fair, when there are thousands, even millions suffering in the world when they themselves have done no wrong?

Can we really say that life is fair, when no matter how careful one person is with their finances and they work so hard to provide for their families, that person could in the very next month find themselves struggling with debt due to circumstances outside of their control?

Can we really say that life is fair, when a person we know and love has lived the most righteous life possible and yet they still come up against the most difficult trials?

Whilst all of the above I have said is happening all around us, there is a much more striking reason for why life is not fair.

Elder Renlund went on to say:

Because they were distant from the Savior, Laman and Lemuel murmured, became contentious, and were faithless. They felt that life was unfair and that they were entitled to God’s grace. In contrast, because he had drawn close to God, Nephi must have recognized that life would be the most unfair for Jesus Christ.”

The further we are from the Saviour, the more we believe we are entitled to help and blessings from Him. Why is this? Because if we truly were closer to the Saviour, the more we would recognise how unfair it is that this perfect, compassionate, merciful man would have to endure more than any other person on this earth would ever have to endure, so that we could be forgiven for the errors we all make, be supported through our trials and experience the tragic events we have done (and will) experience.

Not only does the infinite Atonement allow all of us to receive enabling grace through the Saviour’s Atonement, but He has overcome all things for each and every one of us, of you. This is not just an infinite Atonement, but also an intimate Atonement. We read in Mosiah 15:10-11:

“And now I say unto you, who shall declare his generation? Behold, I say unto you, that when his soul has been made an offering for sin he shall see his seed. And now what say ye? And who shall be his seed?

Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed…”

The Saviour saw each one of usHe knows perfectly how weeel. And that is why, if we truly were close to the Saviour, we would feel that we all don’t deserve what He has done for us.

But oh, how grateful are we for the fact He has done this. Elder Renlund commented:

“The closer we are to Jesus Christ in the thoughts and intents of our hearts, the more we appreciate His innocent suffering, the more grateful we are for grace and forgiveness, and the more we want to repent and become like Him.”

The truth is that we all need to repent. Every single one of us. But despite the fact we all make mistakes, our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ did provide a Saviour for us. Why? Because our Heavenly Father (and our Saviour) love us with a perfect love. We all are in need of accepting this love and enabling grace through the Saviour’s infinite and intimate Atonement.

How can we stay true?

Despite knowing that we are so blessed to have this opportunity to draw closer to the Saviour and become changed through His enabling grace, we sometimes just may not think it is possible. We will be hit by challenges – some sent specifically by Satan to tempt and try us and some will simply by an effect of living in a fallen world – which can bring us to our knees. Elder Renlund said:

“Jesus did not say “if rain descends, if floods come, and if winds blow” but “when.” No one is immune from life’s challenges; we all need the safety that comes from partaking of the sacrament.”

Through the ordinances of the Gospel, administered by priesthood authority, we can draw closer to the Saviour, which will eventually bring us through life’s most difficult challenges. That is why the holy sacrament and sacred temple ordinances are vital because, without these we would struggle. And that is why we have an Area Plan which focuses on these key, regular events we can have (bringing a friend – sacrament, finding an ancestor – temple, both of which help us to become spiritually self-reliant).

In D&C 84:20 we read – Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.”

To bring this post to a close, I’ll share an experience related by Elder Renlund in his address. He was speaking about a friend he has in South Africa who, through a simple mistake, was missed out by the priesthood holders in the sacrament worship. Another member noticed this and informed the Bishop, who invited her to a room to the side after the service. Elder Renlund went on further:

“A priesthood holder came in. He knelt down, blessed some bread, and handed her a piece. She ate it. He knelt down again and blessed some water and handed her a small cup. She drank it. Thereafter, Diane had two thoughts in rapid succession: First, “Oh, he [the priesthood holder] did this just for me.” And then, “Oh, He [the Savior] did this just for me.” Diane felt Heavenly Father’s love.”

When the sacrament is next passed to you by one holding the priesthood authority of God remember that, even though for convenience it was passed to the rest of the congregation, this miraculous opportunity to renew your covenants is offered just for you.

Draw closer to the Saviour through the sacred ordinances of the Gospel. Remember to take the sacrament and worship in the Temple often. As you do this, you will begin to draw closer to the Saviour, even if currently you feel so very far away. We are not “entitled” to blessings, as Laman and Lemuel believed, but we are fortunate that our Saviour Jesus Christ suffered all for us.

Jesus Christ has done everything for us – all he asks is that you come unto Him, and He will make your burdens light. He has promised us this and this is available to all, no matter who you are, because you are a child of God and He wants you to draw closer and return.

 

 

Roots and Covenants 

As we chose to come to this Earth to progress, our Heavenly Father did not want to leave us without any guidance. Part of why we had to come here was so that we could choose to follow our Saviour Jesus Christ. We make promises to follow Him and try to live a life of His disciple. In return we are promised blessings which will help us to become more like our Heavenly Father and receive eternal life – the ultimate blessing of coming to Earth as part of this plan.

These promises (or covenants) make up a significant part of our life following Jesus Christ. They enable us to receive the strength to complete any challenges or overcome any trials that may come in our way. In 1 Nephi 17:3 we read “And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.” Often we can look at Lehi and his family’s journeyings through the wilderness as a parallel to our sojourn in mortality and in the same way we can receive strength from keeping our covenants.

Covenants as Foundations

In the same way, we can compare our covenants to foundations for our life. A well-known verse from Helaman 5:12 helps us to begin to make this link. It says “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” As was mentioned before, our covenants (if they are kept) provide us with a strong foundation which can help us continue through this life.

Roots as Foundations

However, it is important to recognise that we have other examples of covenants in the scriptures. In Jacob 5 we read of an extended parable of olive trees. These trees all had roots which we read relate to the covenants found in the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. An examples is found in verse 36 where it reads ” Nevertheless, I know that the roots are good, and for mine own purpose I have preserved them; and because of their much strength they have hitherto brought forth, from the wild branches, good fruit.” The roots of the Gospel, the covenants which channel the sustaining life of our Saviour, bring sustenance.

Lesson

However, something is important in considering these parables of covenants. Both of them highlight the life-giving elements of our covenants. On the other hand, they also teach us another valuable principle to those to minister to others in the Gospel – the strength of our covenants (of how much we are keeping them) are not visible to others. We can very easily go about our daily lives not strengthening our covenants and those around us may not notice. That it is why it is so important to look to support and strengthen as many as we can – not just those that ask for support or help. So reach out and ask for guidance for who to send that message to or ask how their day is, because you never know when that reaching out may make their day, whoever they are.

Sabbath Blessing

I had an experience recently about the need to keep the Sabbath Day Holy and the blessings associated with keeping that covenant.

Last Sunday I was anticipated a big week at work (leading a Staff Meeting, lesson observation, largest book scrutiny, twilight meeting) and had worked when I could to prepare on the days before. However, due to the demands of a young family and various other commitments I hadn’t managed to complete everything. As we settled for sacrament meeting it was on my mind, particularly preparing for my lesson, and I reasoned that for one week only it would be ok to do a little bit of work to catch up in the evening – perhaps when everyone in my family had gone to bed so it wouldn’t have impact on time with them.

However, when the meeting began I received a clear prompting – can’t remember whether it was through a talk, a hymn or a simple prompting – but it was clear, to keep the Sabbath holy even though it might be difficult. Then in Priesthood we had a lesson on Obedience based on the lesson found in the President Gordon B Hinckley manual. In this lesson we learnt about not putting anything before God and keeping the Sabbath Holy. I got the message by then.

As such, I did not complete the work required on the Lord’s holy day. However, as I had faith, I did manage to get it done early in the week much quicker than I expected. As well as this, the challenges and outcomes of the week occurred brilliantly and I was so pleased with the results. I have no doubt that the Lord blessed the results of the week and when we keep the Sabbath Day holy he magnifies our efforts.